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Eastmoors to Pockley Moor, Bonfield Gill & Piethorn

The low moors which start 4 miles to the north of Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside and immediately north of the Tabular Hills are only crossed by the two roads which link Bransdale with the outside world. Their remoteness means that they are little explored by walkers.

Solitude and tranquillity are what you are most likely to find on this 8 mile walk of variety with its stretches of farmland, moorland and forest plantations.

Distance: 8 miles

Time: 5 hours

Grade: moderate

Conditions: well signed, little used field paths, moorland

and forestry tracks. Inadvisable in poor weather

Refreshments: Helmsley 4 miles

OS Explorer Map OL26

Originally published: 19 October 2012

We start from what was once the heart of the scattering of houses and farms known as Eastmoors some 4 miles north of Helmsley on the road into Bransdale (GR 609903).

Take the path  from the red telephone box and postbox. This almost immediately passes the little church built by Temple Moore in 1882. "Delightfully handled", says Pevsner about "the young architect who obviously enjoyed this job thoroughly and whose pleasure is infectious".

It was one of a number built by the Rev. Charles Gray, crusading vicar of Helmsley from 1870 to 1913, to cover the outer reaches of his huge rural parish. He became nationally famous as a trainer of clergy. At Eastmoors his curates often had to arrive on Saturday night for the early Sunday morning service and would sling a hammock in the south aisle which could be shuttered off from the nave. Though now unused the compact church is well worth a visit.

From the church the path passes the former school, also built through pressure from Rev. Gray. From a nearby gate you should then bear left to Lund Farm. Cross the access track and, keeping the farm buildings on the right, head over three fields to join another track at a piped crossing of Bonfield Gill.

On the far side follow the track uphill to Birk Hall Farm high on the side of Newgate Bank, one of the prominent bluffs of the Tabular Hills. At the farm turn left through a gate and follow a hollow way over a short stretch of moorland and then a field. 

Beyond is the open moor and, in half a mile, a junction with the Little Roll Gate track at Hanging Stone, which is really a scattering of rocks in the heather. It's an ancient route, named Thurkilsti or Thurkill's hill road in Walter Espec's grant of land to Rievaulx Abbey in 1145. It's still traceable from Welburn and Skiplam over the moors before dropping down Turkey Nab on its way to Ingleby Greenhow and Stokesley.

We follow it for some two miles as it climbs gently across the moors with wonderful views in every direction, especially back to the dome of the Tabular Hills and into the deep valleys bearing their streams into the Vale of Pickering.

After passing a quarry the track follows a sunken course in the heather before it reaches a high point where there is another spectacular view down into the remote green farmland of Bransdale. In another 200 yards we turn left past a row of shooting butts to the Helmsley to Bransdale road where turn left.

The road descends to cross Bonfield Gill before climbing steeply back on to the open moor. At the 14% steep hill sign on the far side it's worth crossing the heather on the left for 100 yards. From shooting butt 8 on the edge of Bonfield Gill there's a good view down on to the aqueduct built over 250 years ago to carry water from springs near Piethorn Farm a mile away to the villages of Nawton and Beadlam over 7 miles distant at the foot of the waterless limestone hills.

The engineer was Joseph Foord who in 1747 had been successful in supplying water by a similar method to Fadmoor and Gillamoor. His major achievement was in calculating the path of each rill so that the water flowed around the base and then along the side of the limestone escarpment before continuing over fields to each village. In total he built 6 watercourses or races which continued to deliver water by gravity only to some 8 villages as well as Kirkbymoorside well into the 20th century.

The water in the race below you crossed the beck in a wooden trough. On the far side the it is visible as a bank running across the moorland and heading for the base of Newgate Bank before descending across fields to its destinations. Sadly there are few traces of the watercourses today though Isabel McLean's excellent 'Water from the Moors' published in 2005 by the NY Moors National Park Authority has details of what remains.

Our walk continues along the road for another 300 yards or so before turning right (opposite a walled enclosure on the left) on an earthen moor track. Follow it around Brown Hill to Piethorn Farm, set high on the edge of Helmsley Moor with commanding views of the Tabular Hills between Newgate Bank and Cowhouse Bank.

The signed path continues to the left of the farm and drops across 3 fields to Bogmire Gill. Nearby springs supplied the water for the Nawton race. On the far side cross a ladder stile and follow a track over open moorland parallel to a fence on the left which encloses East Moor Wood.

Where the fence changes direction look out for a signed gate into the wood. Follow the path beyond for 250 yards to the first crossing of tracks. Turn right. It's all downhill from here for just over a mile through the large plantation. At the foot there's a pretty crossing of Cowhouse Beck by footbridge before reaching the starting point.


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